Story and photos by Kate Parker

Since the Middleburg Humane Foundation (MHF) was officially established as a nonprofit organization in 1994, the staff has tirelessly dedicated themselves to both animal welfare and community outreach. The Middleburg Humane Foundation operates one of the few privately run shelters across the country, and it is also unique in that it works to rescue and rehabilitate every kind of animal, including cats, dogs, foul, small mammals, reptiles, bovine, horses, goats and donkeys.

Two of Jessica Davis' three foster horses

Two of Jessica Davis’ three foster horses

MHF’s main goal is to foster healthy relationships between these animals and members of the community. Popular opinion often depicts humane societies solely as removal services, but the main mission of humane societies like MHF is to keep animals alongside humans.

One way MHF ensures healthy and responsible animal-human relationships is to match up rescued animals with responsible foster care parents and permanent owners who must apply for adoption and undergo a stringent vetting process.

Jessica Davis and her animals offer a great example of successful instances of foster care and adoption. Davis has fostered three horses from the shelter since September, and she offers them a happy home on her large property in Bristow, Virginia.

Petra, born on-site at MHF’s shelter is the declared alpha of the three horses, and is a 7-year-old Mustang. Her companion, Dutchy is a 9-year-old Mustang, and was rescued alongside Petra’s mother from a horrifying cruelty case riddled with neglect and abuse.

Both Dutchy and Petra still struggle with nervousness and anxiety, however they have acclimated well to Davis’s barn and benefit greatly from her daily care and attention. Katie, 13, is a quarter horse paint mix, and she is very friendly and outgoing. All three horses have beautiful, shining coats and are very content to roam Davis’s pastures, six stalls and two run-in sheds.

Davis also adopted Penelope, a green-eyed cat, from the shelter in early January. Though friendly, Penelope demands her space, and she finds plenty of it on the property’s 10 acres. Penelope’s new home is a drastic improvement from the hoarding case she was rescued from.

According to Davis, Penelope suffered from neglect in a home of more than 70 cats until she was rescued by MHF, spayed, medicated and relocated to Davis’s property. Penelope now rules the roost in Davis’s hay barn, where you can find her happily perched atop a felt cloth beside water and a box of Friskies wet cat food.

Jessica Davis rescued Penelope from the shelter in early January

Jessica Davis rescued Penelope from the shelter in early January

While MHF is an animal welfare organization, Melanie Burch, MHF’s Director of Development, insists that the organization is also a great benefit to the health of community members. The foundation tackles the root of animal cruelty and neglect by way of Public Health initiatives, and Burch maintains that animals offer great physical and psychological benefit to their owners.

Take Carlee Snyder, a student at Virginia Tech, who has benefited immensely from her relationship with her newly adopted dog, Charlie. She is overflowing with love and gratitude for Charlie, who has helped her overcome her anxiety and depression.

Before adopting Charlie, Snyder was debilitated by panic attacks and frequent bouts of anxiety and depression, however after adopting Charlie, Snyder says that her panic attacks stopped and her depression subsided. Snyder admits that Charlie’s unconditional, steadfast love and affection has quite possibly been lifesaving, and she is deeply grateful for the joy Charlie has brought into her life.

Every morning they “share cuddles together like clockwork,” and Snyder often asks herself, “Who rescued whom?” Snyder said that being greeted by Charlie and his wagging tail every day has been the best decision
of her life.

The Middleburg Humane Foundation is currently in the progress of constructing a new, state-of-the-art equine rehabilitation and animal rescue shelter on the west end of Marshall, Virginia. Such a dynamic organization as MHF will undoubtedly benefit from such an excellent, centralized facility.

The new facility will increase the carrying capacity of the shelter, improve overall organization and centralize daily operations. The new shelter will continue its engagement with local schools and will even provide veterinary internship opportunities with state colleges. Additionally, the new shelter will continue to provide animal care services to low-income families.

With the five-year Capital Campaign, MHF has set a goal to raise $4,000,000 to build this new facility. The campaign is currently 70 percent complete, and construction of the equine barn, facility storage enclosures and the architectural design of the central adoption facility are complete.

If you’d like to help Middleburg Humane Foundation build a better shelter and in turn ensure more success stories like Dutchy, Katie, Petra, Penelope and Charlie, you can donate to the campaign by completing the Sponsorship Pledge Form under the ‘Donate’ tab of Middleburg Humane Foundation’s website at ML